Prisons forbid witnesses to record audio, images or video of executions, but one group does sometimes tape what happens in the death chamber: prison staff. A set of cassette recordings of executions at Virginia prisons was donated privately to a state library nearly two decades ago and shelved with a 75-year restriction, but NPR was able to have the audio publicly released in 2022, Chiara Eisner reports for NPR’s All Things Considered.
The tapes were donated by R.M. Oliver, who worked at Virginia prisons throughout his career but never explained how he came to possess the tapes, all recorded after he left the Department of Corrections. The Virginia tapes and 19 execution tapes released over two decades ago as part of a subpoena in Georgia are believed to be the only publicly available audio evidence from U.S. executions over the last 50 years.